Humans Have Been Drinking Wine for 8,000 Years

Archaeological evidence in the Republic of Georgia pushes back wine's earliest appearance nearly a millennia. 


Wine’s influence on human culture cannot be overstated. Sacrament, entheogen, commodity, social lubricant, dinner accompaniment—innumerable instances for drinking this beloved beverage exist. Archaeology has produced many examples of fermentation’s importance throughout history; before refrigeration it was the means for storing food. Just so happens wine is the most pleasing example of this process. 

When did wine first hit our taste buds? While there is evidence of an alcoholic “rice and grape” beverage in China in 7000 BC, new research shows archaeological proof that wine has been around since at least 6000 BC in the Republic of Georgia. This pushes back the previous date from a site in Iran roughly a millennia. 

Published in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the team, lead by Patrick McGovern, Scientific Director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania Museum, chemically studied the residue of eight jars. This period’s reliance on pottery offers a clue that pottery itself might have been created, at least in part, to store this unique new beverage: 

Pottery, which was ideal for processing, serving and storing fermented beverages, was invented in this period, together with many advances in art, technology and cuisine.

The region these jugs were discovered in—Shulaveris Gora and Gadachrili Gora—boasts ideal environmental conditions for wine production, with fertile, rolling hills, an annual average rainfall 13.8 to 21.7 inches, and a yearly average temperature of 55.4 degrees. 

Whether the grapes were wild or domesticated remains a topic of debate among the extensive team—the paper boasts eighteen authors. Considering that European grapes today account for nearly 100 percent of wine, discovering the origins of this magical grape would be a boon for researchers, if for nothing else than to boast about it over wine. As the study states: 

Today, there are some 8,000-10,000 domesticated cultivars of wine, raisin, and table grapes, including a range of colors from black to red to white. They owe their origins to human selection and accidental crosses or introgression between the incoming domesticated vine and native wild vines. These varieties account for 99.9% of the world's wine production, and include famous western European cultivars such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, and Tempranillo, and Chardonnay.

The team focused on pottery from the Neolithic Period, but, they write, even more enlightening evidence from the pre-Pottery period might await, bringing us all the way back to 10,000 BC. The four millennia between then and the era of these jugs included an emphasis on domesticating new plants, which could mean that ancient humans merely had more crude vessels for their libations. 

Humans likely had beer at this earlier date, as evidenced by the growing of einkorn wheat in famous excavation sites at Göbekli Tepe and Nevali Çori. Some researchers speculate that the cultivation of wheat commenced once some crafty farmer mistakenly engineered beer. The things we do for alcohol. 

McGovern wonders if the beer drinkers also had wine on hand. There might never be a way to tell. But one can dream. 

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Derek is the author of Whole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health. Based in Los Angeles, he is working on a new book about spiritual consumerism. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.

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Because climate change is too big for the mind to grasp, we'll have to use a case study to talk about this. The Syrian civil war is a horrific tangle of senseless violence, but there are some primary causes we can point to. There is the longstanding conflicts between different religious sects in that country. Additionally, the Arab Spring swept Syria up in a wave of resistance against authoritarian leaders in the Middle East — unfortunately, Syrian protests were brutally squashed by Bashar Al-Assad. These, and many other factors, contributed to the start of the Syrian civil war.

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The ensuing flood of refugees to Europe is already a well-known story. The immigration crisis was used as a talking point in the Brexit movement to encourage Britain to leave the EU. Authoritarian or extreme-right governments and political parties have sprung up in France, Italy, Greece, Hungary, Slovenia, and other European countries, all of which have capitalized on fears of the immigration crisis.

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This is why both NATO and the Pentagon have labeled climate change as a "threat multiplier." On its own, climate change doesn't cause these issues — rather, it exacerbates underlying problems in societies around the world. Think of having a heated discussion inside a slowly heating-up car.

Climate change is often discussed in terms of its domino effect: for example, higher temperatures around the world melt the icecaps, releasing methane stored in the polar ice that contributes to the rise in temperature, which both reduces available land for agriculture due to drought and makes parts of the ocean uninhabitable for different animal species, wreaking havoc on the food chain, and ultimately making food more scarce.

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Part of why this is difficult to see is because climate change does not affect all countries proportionally — at least, not in a direct sense. Germanwatch, a German NGO, releases a climate change index every year to analyze exactly how badly different countries have been affected by climate change. The top five most at-risk countries are Haiti, Zimbabwe, Fiji, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. Notice that many of these places are islands, which are at the greatest risk for major storms and rising sea levels. Some island nations are even expected to literally disappear — the leaders of these nations are actively making plans to move their citizens to other countries.

But Germanwatch's climate change index is based on weather events. It does not account for the political and social instability that will likely result. The U.S. and many parts of Europe are relatively low on the index, but that is precisely why these countries will most likely need to deal with the human cost of climate change. Refugees won't go from the frying pan into the fire: they'll go to the closest, safest place available.

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Climate change and its sociopolitical effects, such as refugee migration, aren't some poorer country's problem. It's everyone's problem. Whether it's our food, our homes, or our rights, climate change will exact a toll on every nation on Earth. Stopping climate change, or at least reducing its impact, is vitally important. Equally important is contending with the multifaceted threats its going to throw our way.

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